On Tiger Woods' Mugshot
This Memorial Day Monday morning, my Twitter feed filled with Tiger Woods' mugshot after his DUI arrest in Florida. The image angered me. Not angry at Tiger Woods for his alleged conduct (disappointed and sad, yes) but upset at those proliferating the picture. Infuriated at our incessant, societal need and craving to humiliate people at their worst, to define them by their darkest moments, to revel in the misfortune and misdeeds of our fellow human beings.
We live amidst a pervasive culture of exposing people's secrets, flaws and vulnerabilities and deriving pleasure and entertainment from the unveiling of such blemishes. This mugshot culture is an ugly reflection of us. It is a reflection of our unforgiving conversations about our friends' or colleagues' shortcomings, a reflection of our backbiting a family member, a reflection of our laughing at the latest misdeed of a celebrity or athlete, a reflection of our indulging in the misfortunes of others.
This culture exposes our collective lack of compassion and grace. Rather than seek to shield our fellow human beings, celebrity or not, from embarrassment and shame, we find enjoyment in their sins. Rather than attempt to conceal and harbor someone's faults and flaws, we instead choose to broadcast or amplify their mistakes. Rather than offer people counseling and support in times of vulnerability and shame, we instead perpetuate or exacerbate those vulnerabilities by maliciously exposing them.
This mugshot culture of public shaming is a backbone of our broken system of mass incarceration and criminal (in)justice. Rather than responding to criminal behaviors with sensitivity and mercy, we answer with harsh condemnation and judgment. We ridicule, blame and otherize. We label and discard into bins of “felons,” “sex offenders,” “gang members,” “drug addicts,” “murderers,” “thugs.” We lock away our fellow human beings because we don't see them as our equals, because we don't recognize our shared frailties, vulnerabilities and traumas that just happen to manifest in different ways.
So if Tiger Woods' mugshot pops on your Twitter and Facebook feed, don't share or retweet it. Fight the the subconscious itch to participate in our culture of public shaming, otherization and mass incarceration. Instead, be mindful of Tiger's humanity. Dig deep for empathy. See yourself in that picture.